‘la stanza’ was introduced to me a few months back, by a friend of mine, as one of the very good and authentic Italian restaurants in Leuven. It has also won prizes continuously over past few years. This evening I was lucky to find it open and try it out. Why I call myself lucky is a story in itself and deserves a separate post :).
The first thing I noticed while entering the restaurant was its very ordinary white colored and difficult to open door. It looked like a door to an apartment rather than a restaurant and required considerable effort in opening it. The ambiance inside was much better than the entrance. The lighting was low and soft. The color combinations of the interiors were good and I liked them. I noticed that the walls were rough and had large colorful paintings on them.
The seating was quite limited and it is better to have an advanced reservation. I had walked in without a reservation and was once again ‘lucky’ to be accommodated because later I saw many other walk-in guests turned down. The space was restricted but comfortable and the tables were placed pretty close to each other. Only a few tables offered privacy. I have observed this in almost all the restaurants to which I have been here.
I was given two menus. One was their standard and elaborate menu and the other was a single page menu of ‘la stanza’ specials. There were two people attending the guests. Since both the menus were in Dutch, I asked them if they also have an English menu (some restaurants where I have been to had either a separate menu or accompanying descriptions in English). The person responded as if he did not expect to be asked for an English menu and offered no help, instead asked me to approach the person sitting at the counter. I was surprised by his response as such a response is not expected in good restaurants. But the other attendant was helpful and she helped me with the translations and explained me the content of the dishes.
There seemed to be a good variety of appetizers, main dishes, deserts and drinks. Since I am a vegetarian, a rookie in gastronomy (especially Italian) and have a very limited knowledge of Dutch, I mostly concentrated on the page of ‘vegetarian pastas’. Most of the pastas were in tomato sauce except for two out of which one ‘tagliatelle al pesto farcito’ was in basil pesto sauce and the other ‘ravioli alla novarese’ was in the four cheese sauce .
Pesto is a sauce/paste made of basil, garlic, cheese, olive oil and pine nuts. There are several variants of pesto which can have tomato also.The four cheese sauce is a white cream based sauce containing 4 varieties of cheese including parmesan and mozzarella. Tagliatelle and ravioli are types of pasta; tagliatelle is the long and flat ribbon like whereas ravioli are stuffed pastas.
I ordered for ‘ravioli francescani’ which was pasta stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese in a sauce of mushrooms, gorgonzola cheese, beans, tomatoes, white wine, fresh basil and fragrant herbs. The dish looked appetizing and I found the portion to be right, leaving scope for a dessert :). It took about 15 minutes for the dish to arrive. I liked the dish and can recommend it for others. The dishes served on other tables also looked appealing. I accompanied the pasta with a glass of coca-cola. I was in a mood to have a desert and had seen ‘tiramisu’ in the menu. ‘Tiramisu’ is an Italian dessert where lady finger biscuits soaked in espresso or strong coffee are stacked in layers with cream in between and cocoa powder on the top. I have had ‘tiramisu’ a few times before but each time they failed to reach my expectations set from what I had heard about it. Being satisfied with the pasta and considering that ‘la stanza’ is said to be an authentic Italian restaurant, I asked for ‘tiramisu’. I am glad that I had a much better experience with ‘tiramisu’ this time and I can continue exploring it further :).
Overall I had a decent experience at ‘la stanza’ minus the response of one of the attendants. I would like to visit it again and also recommend it to others. One thing which surprised me was that a small pot of cactus was placed on each table. I am not sure if it’s something Italian; will try to find out!
They do not accept bancontact (debit cards) and one must pay in cash or through credit card. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays. On rest of the days they are open only in the evening from 6 to 10pm. The cost for a single person can be expected to be about 30 Euros.
Contact and other details can be found at http://www.lastanza.be